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The Hope Probe undergoes instrument checks in Japan ahead of July 15 launch Image Credit: UAE Space Agency

Dubai: Less than a year after sending the first Emirati in space, the UAE will once again shoot for the stars with the launch of Mars Hope Probe (Amal in Arabic) on July 15.

There are currently eight active Mars Missions but Hope Probe is the first interplanetary exploration undertaken by an Arab nation and it will join the global effort to learn more about Mars in time for the UAE’s golden jubilee celebrations.

The Hope Probe will take a 495-million kilometre journey to reach and orbit Mars and is anticipated to enter Mars’ orbit, after around 200 days, in February next year.

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The Hope Probe undergoes instrument checks in Japan ahead of July 15 launch Image Credit: UAE Space Agency

Currently, the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) team is undertaking final preparations before lift-off from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre (TNSC) aboard a Mitsubishi H-IIA rocket at exactly 12:51:27am (UAE time) on July 15.

Images have recently been tweeted of the team performing the optics alignment measurement survey test to measure the relative alignment angles between each of the instruments to ensure that the reference points of the instruments remained unchanged after the probe’s transportation from Dubai to the launch site on Tanegashima Island in Japan

How important is Mars Hope Probe?

Sarah Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Advanced Sciences and EMM deputy project manager, said Hope Probe will answer the gap in data and understanding of the Red Planet.

In particular, it will provide the first full picture of Mars’ climate as the probe will orbit the planet for an entire Martian year or 687 Earth days to gather sufficient data.

“Studying Mars’ weather system, including changes in the atmosphere and climate, could help lead to an understanding of how Mars, a planet that used to share characteristics with Earth, went from having rivers and lakes to having no water on its surface,” Al Amiri explained.

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The Hope Probe undergoes instrument checks in Japan ahead of July 15 launch Image Credit: UAE Space Agency

“Hope Probe will reveal how Mars evolved to its present state after water became extinct and also explain why liquid water can’t be stable on the surface,” she added.

Hope Probe is also part of the UAE’s grand plan to build a settlement on Mars by 2117. “The probe will aim to take a variety of measurements to explore different theories. It will also help study the link between dust storms and the loss of hydrogen and oxygen, which are the building blocks of water, from the Martian atmosphere, Al Amiri further explained.

In a recent webinar with London’s Science Museum, Al Amiri added Hope Probe will not only help find answers to Earth issues, including water security, but it is also aimed the youth in the region to take wider interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“The mission created a mindset for the youth that there are opportunities for them to work in areas that they never thought they can work in,” noted Al Amiri, adding: “the EMM was a catapult for the UAE venturing into space that will help in the country’s transition from a natural and service-based economy to one that’s based on creativity and knowledge.”

“The Hope Probe is a national project that translates the vision of the UAE’s leadership to build an Emirati space program that reflects the country’s commitment to strengthening frameworks of international cooperation and finding solutions to global challenges for humanity’s benefit,” the EMM earlier said in a statement sent to Gulf News.

Probing sensors

The main structure of Hope Probe is cubical made out of aluminum with a composite face-sheet. It measures 2.37 metres wide, 2.9 metre long, and weighs approximately 1,500 kilograms when fully fueled.

Hope Probe will have three types of sensors for measuring the complex make-up of Mars’s atmosphere. One is a high-resolution multiband camera for measuring the planet’s dust and ozone; another is an infrared spectrometer (a measuring device that collects light waves) for measuring the lower atmosphere of Mars. And the third is an ultraviolet spectrometer for measuring oxygen and hydrogen levels.

The sensors will track the behavior and escape of hydrogen and oxygen and investigate how the lower and upper levels of the Mars atmosphere are connected.

In a nutshell, Hope Probe will create a picture of how Mars atmosphere varies throughout the day and year.

Countdown to launch

According to EMM, the official countdown for Hope Probe launch will start on July 8 or seven days before lift-off. Launch day depends on various factors and weather is one of the most critical factors that is being monitored regularly.

Although the lift-off is scheduled for July 15, the orbiter can still be launched until early August, which is the biennial window when Earth and Mars are closest to each other. However, if for any reason, the launch cannot be attempted within this window, the mission would have to wait two years for another launch opportunity to arise.